Sports Chiropractors versus Massage Therapists

These two providers are less overlapping in terms of how and what they do to take care of their patients. Often, an athlete will incorporate and use the skills of both to train, rehab and/or prevent injury.

A massage therapist may be on staff at a chiropractic office; they often are part of the care team for professional athletes in addition to a sports chiropractor.


Massage therapists who successfully complete a training program at an accredited massage therapy school can apply and obtain licensure to practice in their state usually after passing a nationally standardized licensure test.

Not all states require licensure, however. A board exam is available for massage therapists, but currently, it is a voluntary test for those wishing to seek higher credentialing as a massage therapist.

While trained to use various techniques, sports massage or deep tissue work is usually the preferred treatment of athletes seeking the care of a massage therapist. These are therapeutic methods that all help stimulate circulation, reduce inflammation and help relieve spasm, which all help reduce pain and promote healing in the scenario of an injury. This type of massage can also promote increased flexibility and range of motion.

Sports chiropractors are not massage therapists, but are often trained in and use deep tissue massage in their care routines.

A sports chiropractor may also use more advanced soft tissue techniques such as Active Release Techniques® or Graston Technique which require additional training and certification to perform.

These techniques differ from deep tissue massage in that they reduce and prevent adhesion’s, which is scar tissue within the muscle. Any and all of these techniques are important to the rehabilitation and prevention of sports injury in athletes, and should be part of their training and routine care.

Therefore, a sports chiropractor may use many of the same or more soft tissue manipulation techniques as massage therapists do in the care of their patients. They can be considered more of a one-stop-shop for those who need this type of care in their training and/or rehabilitative programs.